Political Memorabilia, Documents On Display At Library

Monday, October 15, 2012

“Red, White, and Blue, and Recorded: Collecting and Preserving Politics in Tennessee Archives” is this year’s theme for Tennessee Archives Month.  In recognition of this October event and the upcoming Presidential election, the Chattanooga Public Library is displaying political memorabilia and historical documents housed in its archives.  Items will be displayed now through Nov. 30 in the Local History and Genealogy Department of the Downtown Library.

The Chattanooga Public Library has over 25 collections containing the words and ideas of those in the political arena.  Manuscripts contain speeches, opinions, campaign slogans, buttons, letters, and photographs of those who maintained the courts, wrote laws, and affected communities. The library’s archives include signatures of famous leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Al Gore, and Estes Kefauver.   Preserving and providing access to the works of these men is the domain and purpose of the archives.  

Library collections include:
David McKendree Key (1824-1900) 

David McKendree Key was a Chattanooga lawyer and judge; Confederate army officer; United States Senator; and U. S. Postmaster General.  The library has both personal and professional papers of Judge Key.  The earliest items pertain to Key’s law practice and to his service in the army during the Civil War.  His papers from 1872-1880 include messages to Key from Washington officials and Key’s letters concerning his experience in the Capital.  Key served as Postmaster General from 1877-1880, the first former Confederate to serve in a U. S. Cabinet.  

Henry Clay Evans (1843-1922)

H. Clay Evans was a prominent Chattanoogan who came to the city after the Civil War.  His business involved the iron industry.  His political career ran from city alderman to Chattanooga mayor (1882-1886) to U. S. Congressman (1889-1891) to U. S. Commissioner of Pensions (1897-1902) to U. S. Consul to London (1902-1905) and finally back to Chattanooga as Commissioner of Education.  Evans ran for Tennessee governor as a Republican in 1894 and won the popular vote but lost the position when the Tennessee legislature selected his opponent Peter Turney in the contested election.  His papers include clippings, correspondence, and programs related to his life as a public servant. 

George L. McInturff (1907-1986)

A Chattanooga political and civic leader, George L. McInturff served as a city commissioner from 1946 -1967 and Chattanooga vice-mayor from 1963-1967.  He also worked as a member of the Chattanooga Housing Authority and as a consultant to the Downtown Development Committee.  His papers hold letters, speeches, photographs, and scrapbooks of his political career.  A Democrat, Mr. McInturff also kept a collection of decorative donkeys.   

Peter Rudolph Olgiati (1901-1989)

Rudy Olgiati came into politics from the construction business and gained the reputation as a “builder of the city.”  He worked as city commissioner from 1947-1951 and then as Chattanooga mayor from 1951-1963.  He enlarged the city airport; combined urban renewal with the new freeway system; developed the Golden Gateway project; and left a legacy of highways, bridges, and public works.  The library archives holds his correspondence, photographs, speeches, scrapbooks, programs, campaign materials, and newspaper clippings.  

Robert Kirk Walker (1925-2007) 

Walker carried out the duties of Chattanooga mayor from 1971-1975 but his actions and influence extended far beyond those years.  As mayor, Walker greatly enlarged Chattanooga’s population and geographic boundaries through annexation.  He was instrumental in merging the University of Chattanooga with the University of Tennessee.  He worked to develop Miller Park and to bring the Chattanooga Public Library downtown.  He served on the renovation committees of both the Tivoli Theatre and the Memorial Auditorium and founded the Leadership Chattanooga program.  Walker practiced law for over 50 years with the firm of Strang, Fletcher, Carriger, Walker, Hodge, and Smith, and was president of the Tennessee Bar Association in 1965, one of its youngest.  His donation to the archives includes his records created while mayor and many of his personal papers.  The collection contains letters, speeches, scrapbooks, photographs, awards, and newspaper clippings. 

David Y. Copeland, III (1931- )  

Like many others in this group, David Copeland succeeds as businessman, politician, and civic leader.  Copeland served 24 years in the Tennessee House of Representatives, beginning in 1968.  He pushed for tax reform and a balanced budget.  He served on the Education, Finance, Corrections, Pensions, Retirement, and Ways & Means Committees.  He founded the Taxpayers Coalition of Tennessee and was president of the Citizens Taxpayer Association of Hamilton County from 1982-1986.  In 1994, he ran for Tennessee governor.  His collection has speeches, newsletters, publications, artifacts, memoranda, campaign materials, and electronic records. 

Leslie Rogers Darr (1886-1967) 
Judge Darr spent his early years in Marion County as judge of the 18th Judicial District.  In 1939, he moved to Chattanooga after receiving an appointment as Federal Judge in the Eastern District.  His papers reflect both his personal and professional career and include photographs, letters, speeches, cards, degrees, and newspaper articles of his many cases.  Interesting cases include the McNabb moonshine trial in which a revenue agent was killed, and the trial of the “Robin Hood” bandit, James Francis Hill, who howled during his trial.


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